Is Dan Benishek Waffling on Term Limits?

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 16, 2013 · 9:22 AM EDT

When Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., first ran for office, he was a strong proponent of term limits. But now, the two-term Republican congressman’s stance is much less clear.

“Career-consumed politicians in Washington got us into the mess we are in today by voting for bills they haven’t read, for the deficits America can’t sustain, and for the unrestrained increase in federal power,” Benishek said in a press release on Sept. 29, 2010. “That is why I am happy to tell voters I strongly favor term limits. Three terms and you’re retired seems about right to me.”

At the time, Benishek was a doctor and a political outsider running in Michigan’s open 1st District against Democrat Gary McDowell, who spent nearly three decades in office at the state and county levels. Benishek won that race and was re-elected in 2012 in one of the closest House races in the country.

As he approaches his re-election for a third term, it’s unclear whether it will be Benishek’s last.

“Right now, Dr. Benishek is focused on doing his job as Northern Michigan’s voice in Congress, not the timetable for his own career,” Benishek Communications Director Kyle Bonini told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday. “As he has stated since he first ran for office, Dr. Benishek does not plan on making a lengthy career out of being in Congress and intends to ultimately return to practicing medicine in Upper Michigan.”

Of course, Benishek’s re-election is not guaranteed next year. He will likely face former Kalkaska County Sheriff and retired Army National Guard Major General Jerry Cannon in what should be one of the most competitive races in the country. And it’s the Democratic challenger who might have an easier claim to the outsider mantle this time.

The race is rated Tossup/Tilt Republican by Rothenberg Political Report.

The congressman wouldn’t have to make a final decision on three terms for well over a year from now. But if he still thought three terms was a suitable limit, Benishek could re-affirm that at any point. Now, his stance appears to be much more ambiguous.

“I urge Gary McDowell to sign, as I have, the pledge by US Term Limits committing to publicly support efforts to impose a three-term limit on members of Congress,” Benishek said in 2010. “Mr. McDowell’s failure to commit to this limit puts him at odds with a majority of voters.”

Benishek might give Michiganders a second shot to weigh in on the issue.